CONCERNS have been raised over whether some postal votes in Thursday’s council elections across County Durham will be included in the count.
A production and distribution error with printers means there were delays in postal ballots being delivered to some areas of the county.
Council bosses have been in touch with the printers, distributors and postal services to find out the cause of the delay.
North Durham MP Kevan Jones said: “It is widespread, and they acknowledge it has happened.
“As I understand it, it is a printing error.
“They have gone out but they have missed certain blocks in wards.
“That is what has happened.
“I urge anyone who has not received a postal vote as a matter of urgency to contact the council.
“If you have got one what you can do is fill it in and drop it off at the polling station until the close of the poll.”
The Northern Echo understands there were problems in areas including Neville’s Cross, Hawthorn, Witton-le-Wear, Durham South, Rookhope, Merrington and Windlestone.
Durham County Councillors Liz Brown and Elizabeth Scott, who represent Neville’s Cross, have expressed concerns over the delays.
Coun Liz Brown said: “Councillor Scott and I are aware and are very concerned about this problem which appears to be disenfranchising a great many of our voters.
“Residents in this area have chosen a postal vote for various reasons: many are elderly and in poor health and worried about the Covid virus.
“I know of many people who are going away to take advantage of the bank holiday and the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
“Voters have been told that they can take their postal vote into the polling stations but this negates the reasons for taking a postal vote in the first place.
John Hewitt, Durham County Council’s Interim Chief Executive and Returning Officer at the upcoming elections, said and the authority was aware of wider printing and distribution issues which have affected a number of councils across the country who use the same external printer.
He said: “All of our requests for printing and distribution of postal votes were made within the agreed timescales.
“However, we understand that there have been delays by the external printer in printing and issuing postal votes and ballot papers.
“Our external printer has confirmed that all of our postal vote packs have been distributed.
“We would like to apologise to anyone who has been affected by any printing and distribution issues caused by our external printer, but would reassure them that they have up until Wednesday to post their ballot papers.
“They can also deliver them in person to any polling station in their electoral area up until 10pm on Thursday.
“In addition, the Royal Mail has also introduced Priority Post Boxes across the country for the delivery of Covid testing kits that can also be used for posting ballot papers.”
Any resident who is registered to vote has not received their postal ballot pack, is advised to call the election helpline on 03000 261 212 or to email [email protected]